In the Valley


One supposes things get easier the longer you do them. Not necessarily so. Some things don’t get easier. Some times the degree of difficulty is a divining feature. It helps to illuminate one’s dedication to a task. It helps to codify the reasons for some acts of valor. Creators create out of a necessity. They are called forth to create. They are compelled to create. They are driven. Some folks say that artists must suffer, that their art is a product of that suffering. I don’t know that to be a fact. Suffering may deter creation, may block the fount from which it flows, may prevent creation. Sometimes suffering informs creation. But it is perhaps the ability to suffer that should be examined. The source of an artist’s angst is often awareness, the ability to see, to feel, to empathize. The ability to sit in “suffering” can be a birthing process. To be informed by suffering is worthwhile if it is an inspiration to move to transform it. I remember a song from my Grandmother’s church choir, “Lord don’t move that stumblin’ block, give me strength to go around it, Lord don’t move that mountain, give me the strength to climb it.”

And so it is that I am a “Long Distance Runner”,  build for distance, not so much for speed. I am water. Not as substantial as the mountain, but in possession of the fluidity to flow around it, the persistence to wear against it, to form the valley in which we flourish in defiance of  dwindling ground on which to stand. Sister Thea Bowman, a personal inspiration, urges me to remember its ok to be tired but beware of becoming weary. I remind myself that all clouds have linings. Difficulty offers opportunities for growth.

I have been in the Valley planting flowers in the stone of mountainsides. I have stayed to ensure they are watered. Their own need is the sun that draws them forth. I am of the Valley. It is my home. That hard spot next to the rock is my reference point. It is from this point I greet the sun and the things that walk in my night. It is from this perspective that I tilt my head to capture the sound of God’s voice. It is from this vantage point I strive for justice. It is on this battlefield that I stand behind my art, stand on it, stand for it as it stands for me, and swing creativity like a lance to bring down the forces that would keep the valley unlit and bereft of flowers. Here we use creativity like scalpels to rewound our selves and let the poison flow out as overstanding finds room inside us. We use art like medicine. We heal here. We are the first to be infected with transformation and a symptom of our wellness is our need to share the virus.We want you to get it.  We are a Learning Community in dialogue with our emblematic geographical and metaphorical diaspora wide community.

Cultural is a linga franca in the building of bridges that would enable us to empathize with kindred communities, enabling us to strive towards the universal in this conversation of saying, and seeing us, working the story of us to explain the now of us to us and others. It is a leavening agent helping us to contextualize our selves as we become the drum we are playing, as we get the message, we become the message, as we move to overstanding, we broadcast the message. We are a smooth coal-black song, complete, seeking diamond sharp conciseness to help us cut through the veil. Through performing we become seers. Those who fail to achieve overstanding remain poor seers. Thus innately they are not good performers. They are bound by the story of self and not ready to stand over it, not ready to own it, to transform it by becoming the author.

Even those who will not perform can be moved. They stand to be wounded by those who do perform. They come to trust or they fall before those who see. If they are lucky they find a source of light they trust,  they can stand in it and come to know what they have failed to overstand; because someone picked up a drum and beat a path to overstanding.

In the Valley I listen to August Wilson’s drum. A lion singing lights my path and I overstand. I perform. I walk with waymakers; we perform. Our path is lit. We hear the drum. In the Valley we are learning to be the drum.

Strike here to hear lions roar. We are overstanding Wilson. Standing in the fire being forged. We are not afraid of closing doors or open windows we have seen it all before. We seek overstanding. We will be made whole. We will not be bound. We are becoming the roar of the lion.